Regardless of the sentiment which attaches itself to Blois by reason of its magnificent chateau, and in spite of its undeniably picturesque and interesting environment, it hardly takes sufficient rank as a cathedral city to warrant more than a passing consideration. As it is, one cannot get from under the shadow of its overpowering attraction, and, in spite of the poverty and depressing qualities of the Cathedral of St. Louis, perhaps no place in the Loire valley has more claim upon the atten tion of the enthusiastic tourist. The wonderful chateau is all that has been said of it, and more. The picturesqueness of the city’s streets of stairs, and its general up and down hill situation, offering charming vistas, unique in a city of the north, are, except for its size, really more suggestive of Genoa or Naples. In the general ensemble of the city, the Loire is an attraction of itself, when viewed from across that,wonderful stone bridge, the first public work endowed by Louis XV. But even then, the awkward and uninteresting cathedral does not enter into the view with that liveliness and impressiveness which we are wont to associate with such an environment. In short, it must be set down that in the lack of pleasing qualities in its cathedral, is found Blois’ greatest disappointment.
The tourist pur sang will care little about this. He usually rushes in and out during the daylight, and recalls but little except the fascinating staircase of the chateau attributed, as to its spiral formation, to Da Vinci; the ornamental chimney-pieces; and the fact that historical events of the past have intermingled inextricably the gruesome stories of the royal houses which bore respectively the arms of hedgehog and salamander. This only, with perhaps the memory that at one time or another a certain event took place involving the use of some forty odd daggers.
Perhaps, after all, it would be an embarrassment of riches did the town possess a cathedral, or even other monuments, to vie with this spectacular attraction which, from every view-point realizes the ideal of our imagination, as to just what a chateau and its history might be.
From near or far the cathedral shows no charm of outline. Its ridgepole is marred by three unusually obtrusive ” lightning conductors,” which could hardly have been more offensive had they been turned into those lathlike crosses which are seen elsewhere. Its tower is a monstrosity, with an egg-shaped protuberance which is neither shapely nor impressive, while the southern range of the nave and aisle, when viewed laterally, shows a bareness and poverty of design unusual and painful. The ensemble, from this point, is one of a certain impressiveness. It could hardly be otherwise, with the situation which it commands, even were it the grossest thing that ever took shape in architecture. Its irregularities and inconsistencies, and the great variety of outline shown by the roof-tops of the town, perhaps, make up in a measure for the lack of individual beauties in the church itself.
There is this much to be said, however, for the functions which this church performs. If all were as much made use of by the marketday peasants, streaming in from the surrounding country, who, with their jugs, marketbaskets, and what not, in their hands, enter the building, say a short prayer or two, and toddle out again, there would doubtless be fewer churches with a poverty-stricken air and more of a better and more prosperous class.
The greater part of the cathedral which originally stood on this site was destroyed during the Revolution, and that which was afterward reared here was merely a restoration by Mansard, who, it is to be presumed, made such use as was possible of what remained.
The interior, most will agree, is no more remarkable than the exterior adornments; in fact the same paucity of plan and of detail appears from one end to the other, inside and out. The aisles are astonishingly low; the choir and nave, each unusually short. There are no transepts, and there is no triforium whatever, no chapels of any remarkable beauty, and little glass that is even passable. On the walls of the nave, beneath the low clerestory windows, are a series of four carven Renaissance marble panels, with other blanks suggesting the ultimate addition of similar sepulchral-looking ornaments. Such, in brief, is a resume of the attractions, or rather the lack of them, as it will strike the average person. It is perhaps no small wonder that the traveller who desires to study architectural forms, or to sketch them, should prefer the less holy precincts of the chateau, where every facility is offered for the pursuance thereof, to that more ” blessed ground,” covered by the cathedral, which offers little enough in itself, and that little under a surveillance which makes one regret that the feudal times are not still with us, -when we might vent our spleen and anger upon any who offend us.